Norfolk has built 12,000 new homes - but how many new schools and GP surgeries are we getting?
PUBLISHED: 11:14 22 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:33 22 June 2017
Archant Norfolk 2015
More than 12,000 new homes have been built in the last five years in Norfolk. Will we get the GP surgeries and schools too?
If it hasn’t already, a digger is likely to be coming to a field near you in the coming years.
House building shot up 50pc from 2012 to 2017 in Norfolk. In South Norfolk alone, 890 new homes were completed last year, more than any other part of Norfolk and Suffolk.
And across the two counties 20,200 new homes have been built in the last five years, according to Government figures.
But that is not enough.
Norfolk and Suffolk is a long way behind its target of building 117,000 new homes by 2026.
Tens of thousands of more homes are planned; Norfolk’s population is predicted to grow by 7pc to almost one million by 2024.
Are the schools, roads and extra GP surgeries coming too?
House builders have paid our councils millions of pounds through contributions called Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy to build new schools, roads and facilities to go alongside the new homes.
But that money is rarely used to help Norfolk’s NHS.
Health chiefs say they are looking at where and how services could be expanded for population growth.
But the problem with building new surgeries is the lack of GPs to work in them. There is a national shortage of doctors and there are currently 16 GP vacancies in Norfolk.
“Unless the ability to attract new GPs in Norfolk happens, the service provision will naturally decrease. That is our concern,” says Alex Stewart from patient group Healthwatch Norfolk. It has raised its concerns about new developments and health care with NHS England and local planning authorities.
Chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee and Beccles GP Dr Tim Morton added: “It is a massive problem. Planning doesn’t really take into account medical services. We often get told about the applications at a later date. It is the accumulation of smaller developments which put the pressure on.”
GPs are funded by NHS England per patient so if the population increases, so does the funding, but this is around £140 per patient per year, which Dr Morton says is not enough.
Andrea Patman, from NHS England, said they worked with councils and local health chiefs to plan for future growth in the region.
“Various infrastructure projects across Norfolk have already been delivered and more are planned,” she said.
A new GP surgery was built in rapidly expanding Poringland in 2015 and Lionwood Medical Practice in Norwich moved to new buildings off Plumstead Road last year.
But rather than building new surgeries, NHS bosses are mainly hoping to cope with future demand through something called a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).
That aims to save tens of millions of pounds from the health service in Norfolk and Waveney by treating patients in the community rather than at hospitals and getting people to lead healthier lives.
When it comes to GP practices, services are also being reorganised to cope.
In Norwich, 23 practices have formed the OneNorwich alliance and are looking at new ways of working together to cope with demand.
•How many new schools?
When it comes to schools, developers have contributed £27m since 2004 which has been used to help create more than 3,000 new places in mainstream schools and more than 200 special educational need spaces.
Penny Carpenter, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s children’s services committee, said: “In recent years the council has spent millions of pounds on school development schemes, supporting growth in key areas across the county. We have also been investing in special school provision, to support more children with additional needs to be taught closer to home.”
The county is getting three new schools in Sprowston, Hethersett and Holt.
And areas such as Wymondham, Thetford, Great Yarmouth, Diss, Costessey, Bowthorpe, North Norwich, Thetford and Downham Market are getting the most new school places.
It can’t come a moment too soon, particularly in South Norfolk where schools in Wymondham have some of the longest waiting lists in Norfolk.
•What about our roads?
Doomsday predictions of Norfolk’s traditionally poor transport network come as thick and as fast as the traffic.
Norfolk County councillors heard in December the county would “die on its feet” without more investment in roads.
Using less dire words, business leaders this month warned of an “infrastructure deficit” around Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
Like schools, developer contributions are also used for new roads, with the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) partly funded using house builders’ cash.
But the wish-list for new infrastructure in Norfolk and Waveney is long and expensive, including the “missing link” to join the western end of the NDR with the A47, a third river crossing in both Lowestoft and Yarmouth.
Then there is the Long Stratton bypass and improvements to the Bittern Line with a station at Broadland Business Park.
All of these could be developed with the help of house builders’ money - £10m of developer contributions has been earmarked for the Long Stratton bypass.
But all will take huge amounts of time and resource.
•‘We will cope’
We asked people at Norwich Railway station whether they thought services could cope with new homes
Julian Stefinovic, 19, Norwich
“Local services will definitely be able to cope with new homes being built. It will give local services more business and an increase in funding from the government. However, there are some environmental concerns that we must consider”.
Patricia Hollis, 76, Park Lane, Norwich
“It’s about building a community from the beginning. What’s key is a mixture of housing and urging people to build bungalows and houses for young families. Services will be able to cope as more money will be injected in hospitals and schools due to population growth.”
Natalie Brandon-Perks, 39, Norwich
“It definitely will have a negative impact on schools. My son is currently on the waiting list to go to pre-school. Crowding could be an issue with the new housing development”.
Connor Ewing, 22, Norwich
“Any new houses will be a strain on schools. New builds are bringing in younger people. However, the council are tying their own noose by building more houses, but it’s a great city with culture and there is a lot of room for growth.”